The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Farm policy yields fourth harvest

Calcutta, March 4: Agriculture minister Kamal Guha will place a new draft of the agriculture policy — the fourth in the past year — before the Cabinet for its approval on Thursday.

The new draft has been drawn up by finance minister Asim Dasgupta in consultation with Guha and includes relevant portions from the previous ones. Planning and development minister Nirupam Sen drew up the first and second drafts last year.

The previous one, drafted by Guha, was discussed in the core committee of ministers last month. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had then suggested that Dasgupta must redo it.

Guha today admitted that he would place the new draft before the Cabinet on Thursday but refused to divulge details.

The draft, circulated among the ministers this evening, is understood to have been broadly accepted by their core committee. Copies of it were circulated among members of the committee over the past fortnight and the chief minister contacted them individually for opinion.

Sources said the new draft does not mention “contract cultivation”. The mention of contract farming in the draft policies penned by Sen had created a hue and cry among the Left Front partners, particularly Guha’s Forward Bloc.

Sen had suggested contract farming following a recommendation by global consultant McKinsey. Front partners had compared the idea with the indigo plantation in nineteenth century Bengal that was forced upon farmers by the British.

Sources said the new policy will guarantee protection of farmers’ lands and underline the need to provide farmers and cultivators with remunerative prices against their produce, the importance of increasing cash crop areas and cutting down on boro and potato cultivation.

“Boro cultivation puts a lot of pressure on the underground water reserve as irrigation is done artificially with the help of deep tubewells. Modern agriculture is all about rainy season cultivation and rain-water harvesting,” said an agriculture department official.

Moreover, during meetings among Dasgupta, Guha and the agriculture officials, it was also debated whether it was necessary to cultivate paddy where the climate was suited for cash crops like pulses and oilseeds, flowers and fruits such as pineapple.

The new draft mentions the need to cut down on potato cultivation immediately. The state has produced 80 lakh tonnes of potato this year, of which more than half is surplus. “We need to programme our cultivation with new varieties,” said an official.

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